Atlantic Monthly, Apr 4 2011, $24.00
Venetian medical examiner Dr. Rizzardi concludes that sexagenarian Widow Costanza Altavilla died from a heart attack in her apartment in Santa Croce. Although he has no justification to investigate the death as Rizzardi is a diligent professional, Commissario Guido Brunetti feels something is not quite right. Thus he looks around the home and finds unexplained different sizes of female attire.
After consulting with Signorina Elettra, Brunetti knows the late woman ran a safe house for women fleeing from domestic abuse. The cop ponders if perhaps one of these violent men assaulted Altavilla in her home; causing the sixtyish woman to suffer the deadly heart failure. He soon follows a clue that leads to a senior citizen home, where the deceased volunteered her services as Brunetti begins to ponder whether the motive is avarice instead of violence or perhaps both.
The latest Commissario Guido Brunetti Italian police procedural (see A Question of Belief) is a great tale that looks closely at how a civilized society treats abused women and the elderly; the results are not very compassionate. A key element in this terrific investigation is that Rizzardi is respected as a pro, which Brunetti believes too; but his experience and his gut tell him otherwise. Readers will relish sailing the watery streets of Venice with the caring Commissario who understands justice and the law is not always in synch.